Thursday, August 08, 2019

Minn. farmers unload frustration on trade war, tell Perdue it will have long-term effect on soybean sales to China

Secretary Sonny Perdue at Minnesota FarmFest
(DTN/The Progressive Farmer photo by Chris Clayton)
Farmers vented their frustrations with the tariff war when Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue held a listening session at the Minnesota Farmfest in Redwood Falls yesterday. It was a particularly timely topic, since China halted all American ag purchases a few days ago in response to President Trump's announcement of 10 percent tariffs on $300 billion of Chinese goods.

"Gary Wertish, president of the Minnesota Farmers Union, drew applause as he leveled criticism of the administration’s trade policy" during the forum, Mike Dorning and Erik Wasson report for Bloomberg News. "Wertish criticized Trump’s 'go-it-alone approach' and the trade dispute’s 'devastating damage not only to rural communities.' He expressed fears Trump’s $28 billion in trade aid will undermine public support for federal farm subsidies, saying the assistance is already being pilloried 'as a welfare program, as bailouts.'"

Brian Thalmann, president of the Minnesota Corn Growers Association, criticized some of Trump's tweets that farmers are doing "great" again, Bloomberg News reports. "We are not starting to do great again . . . We are starting to go down very quickly," Thalman said. Trump hinted at more aid in a tweet on Tuesday, but Perdue said no further trade aid is being planned. Many applauded when Democratic state Rep. Angie Craig said trade aid was not a substitute for a trade strategy.

Chris Clayton reports for DTN/The Progressive Farmer, "One farmer got a loud round of applause by telling the secretary USDA shouldn't put out speculative planting numbers that kill a market rally." Ryan McCrimmon reports for Politico's "Morning Agriculture" newsletter, "Perdue defended the survey-based data from USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service and said the schedule for releasing publications is determined years in advance."

Perdue said America's farmers would regain their market share in China, but a resolution must be based on "reciprocal trade" and that it's China's responsibility to make some concessions, Bloomberg News reports. However, Joel Schreurs, a Minnesota farmer and a director of the American Soybean Association, told Perdue he doesn't think the hardline approach is working with China, and soybean farmers are losing a long-term relationship with China in the meantime, Clayton reports. "I just don't see that market coming back quickly," Schreurs said. "It's not going to be a six-month thing."

UPDATE, Aug. 15: Mary Papenfuss reports for Huffington Post, "Perdue hit back at the complaints with his joke: 'What do you call two farmers in a basement? A whine cellar.' As he pounded the table in mirth, some of the thousands of farmers at the event laughed nervously — which was followed by boos." Minnesota Farmers Union President Gary Wertish told her, “It was definitely not an appropriate thing to say,” “It was very insensitive. It took everyone by surprise. He doesn’t understand what farmers are dealing with, and he’s the head of the Department of Agriculture. He’s supposed to be working for farmers.”

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